What a day!!!
Today was La Vuelta day. The reason we are in this part of Spain, the reason we met disaster yesterday. We still don’t have our car but Emergency Assistance Lady says it’s all under control. We are taking her word for it and today was just about La Vuelta!
We decided it would be a great idea to walk from Lucena del Cid to the top of Mas de la Costa. We had all day and we were told it was ….. “hmmmm , 6 kilometres maybe. Piece of cake!!!
We set off reasonably unprepared, thinking that we could purchase food along the way and top up our water bottles as required. We did have plenty of water but I was worried we would run out! Rookie error!
It was actually 8 kms with the last 4 kms of incredible steepness.
We topped up our food supply with beautiful fresh figs and blackberries from the roadside trees. Once again our master forager guru, Françoise, would have been proud!
The scenery was amazing!
Just before the 4 km sign, everyone lucky enough to have a car, had to park and join us on our pilgrimage to the summit.
So, off we went with our new found Colombian friends and started checking off the milestones.
Now, I’m not a great lover of hills! Nor heat! Nor lack of shade! This was one of the hardest climbs of my life!!
Around the 2 km mark, I was done!! It was hard, hot work. Even the young, fit kids were struggling. We rested in the shade looking rather the worse for wear, contemplating if I wanted to take even one more step, when we heard some Aussie accents approaching. We said hello and much to our delight we had a five minute chat with Matthew Keenan and David McKenzie of SBS Cycling commentary fame. They were fantastic, asking us where we were from and answering all our questions regarding the standings in the Veulta. They gave us insight into what might/ would probably happen today and told us we had picked the best day to come. They said they always walk the last few kilometres on mountain stages to give them greater understanding of what the cyclist were dealing with. With that they strode off up the 25 degree incline like only very fit young men can do. Needless to say we didn’t see them again. ( Nor did I ask for a photo. Big regret!!)
Inspired, we walked on, and on. Overtaking the Colombians who were suffering joyously, and then being overtaken by the Colombians! It was if we were joined by elastic: overtake, be overtaken: overtake, be overtaken.
With about 500 metres to go, we came across a little van set up with cold drinks, cold beer, cold water and bread and salamis.
I skulled a coke ( I don’t drink coke) , then a beer ( I don’t drink much beer), and then a bottle of cold water. All three never tasted so good.
We made our final ascent to the summit. I was determined to cross the finish line. Unfortunately we were met by these three spoil sports!
We had to settle for 15 metres short of the summit, but in my books , it was a success.
We set up camp at the “75 metres to go” sign early enough to hold our position til the cyclists came through. There was a big camera aimed in our direction.
All day there were amateur cyclists riding to the finish line, so there was always something to see. The group across the road from us were enjoying themselves immensely and cheered on every one passing by. One guy even made it to the top on one of those “fold up” bikes, While others were on e- bikes, I myself would only ever contemplate it on a motor bike!! And even then I would question my sanity!!
(On watching the replay later on Eurosport , the commentator mentioned that today’s ride was so difficult that many riders would question their work choice.)
Excitement was mounting. Valverde, Lopez, Roglic and Quintana were fighting it out on the final climb and the Spanish were going nuts. Valverde rides for Movistar, a Spanish team. The Spanish celebrated , the Colombians not so much Although a Columbian is now wearing the Red Jersey!
We got to watch all the riders come in, most of them absolutely spent!! To add insult to their injury, the cyclists who had finished had donned jackets, ice vests and ….. whistles to descend back down to the team buses (at the bottom of the mountain) , flew past, while they still struggled upwards.
Exhaustion written all over their faces!!
53 places down the finish list, our favourite guy, Quintin Jauregui (no. 17) not only was relieved to see the finish line, he celebrated by doing most of the last 100 metres on his back wheel only. The crowd loved it.
The walk back down the Mountain was certainly much easier. We caught up with our Colombians and had a merry time. No need for rest stops.
It was then that we discovered that the village we are staying in was running shuttle buses to and fro. We could have saved ourselves the first four kilometres in the morning.!!
It was the best news of the day. The locals ensured we got on the correct bus and I have never been so happy to plop onto a hard seat!!
Home at last. Shower. Eat. Sleep.
Like a log!!!